Beginning Thursday, Feb. 23, Massachusetts College of
Liberal Arts (MCLA) Gallery 51 will present "Branching Together." The exhibit will bring together the work of Helen Hiebert, Sun Young Kang and Michelle Wilson; three artists who use the physicality of paper as a means of telling a story.
An opening reception will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23, 5-7 p.m. The event, sponsored by Storey Publishing, is free and open to the public, and will include a book signing by Hiebert with her three books on paper making, all of which will be available for purchase.
Just prior to the reception, at 4:30 p.m., Heibert also will give a short talk about paper and her work in the show.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, Hiebert's "Mother Tree," was created with translucent abaca-based paper. Strands crocheted from cotton, linen, hemp and flax form the roots, some of which were crocheted by Hiebert, many more by others who read about her project online or experienced it at a gallery.
The strands represent milk. Hiebert explained, "As the milk cascades to the floor, it turns into roots and these roots are multi-colored and multi-fibered, representing all of humanity and our diversity. The threads in Mother Tree symbolize the lifeline that connects all women to their past as well as to their future."
Like "Mother Tree," "To Find the One Way" by Kang also begins with a personal experience, her response to the death of her father. In this piece, Kang uses lit incense symbols, burned into 1,080 pieces of paper.
Inspired by the Buddhist idea of the number 108 and the various renderings of the character Tao, which has various meanings, including "path" or "way," all of the pages are marked with the Tao character. When these pages are displayed, a shadow is created, drawing attention to the negative space and the absence the space suggests.
Absence also plays a role in Wilson's "The Ghost Trees." Wilson aims to find the intersections in one's lifeline where thought takes action and where one decides along the way to make a stand. In her case, the stand represents her love of nature and the ecological links that paper inherently represents. Through the use of watermarks, this installation creates a "haunting" in the paper itself, evoking the immense deforestation that occurs every year to keep up with the demand for paper.
MCLA arts professor and the show's curator, Melanie Mowinski, said, "Each artist is on a journey, a path, a way that branches together and outwards to others. Handmade paper, made from the earth, serves as the primary medium linking these works. But each artist transforms this everyday material into an artwork that invites the viewer to see their reflection and find moments of connection in their own life."
Hiebert is the author of "The Papermaker's Companion," "Paper Illuminated" and "Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds," which are published by Storey Publishing. She served as program director at Dieu Donne Papermill in New York for five years and has taught papermaking workshops at Dieu Donne, the Women's Studio Workshop, the Horticultural Society of New York, and the New York Botanical Garden.
Her paper creations have been featured in gallery exhibits across the United States and have appeared in "House & Garden" and "Country Living" magazines. She has a studio at Oblation Papers and Press in Portland, Ore.
In addition to Storey Publishing, other sponsors of this exhibit include the MCLA Creative Arts Core, the MCLA Honors Program, and the College's fine and performing arts department.
"Branching Together" will be on view through March 25. MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 413-664-8718, or go to http://www.mcla.edu/Gallery51.